Tinsukia: For decades, Changlang has been mostly known as a border district with insurgency issues. But thanks to a series of government initiatives, the region is also poised to become a hub of agriculture and horticulture produce, processing food from spices to mushrooms, and pineapple jams to canned fruit.
As part of the NERCORMP, a North Eastern Council (NEC) and Ministry of DoNER project, 26 food processing and allied units have come up in the past year in all the nine blocks of Changlang district at a cost of Rs 12 crore.
NERCORMP, a pilot project launched in 2014, is limited to only three districts of Arunachal Pradesh: Tirap, Changlang and Longding.
Speaking about the project, Changlang’s deputy commissioner Devansh Yadav, 30, said all the 26 FPU and allied units are owned by Farmer Producer Organizations (FPO) and run in coordination with engaging professionals from Assam and Arunachal. “We have successfully test-run six units, which includes two Spice processing units, two CSG packaging unit (also chips making unit), a Food and Fruit processing unit – that will see jams and pickle flavours of Changlang and a Bakery processing unit.”
Highlighting the project objective, Yadav said, “Processing of crops and selling their packaged products will provide more income to farmers and also act as a catalyst for the manufacturing and processing industry, changing the economic map of the district.”
“It will diversify economic activities in eastern Arunachal and reduce dependency on outside products. Through market linkage, we will also sell our products in faraway markets and establish organic food brands of the state,” added Yadav.
“The community decides the activity and development they want, which in true sense is the very fabric of democracy and decentralised power,” Yadav said, adding that the government provides the funds to the community, guidance, training and necessary expertise to run the show. “All the products will be sold under a single brand which is under consideration,” he added.
The idea behind the project & strategy
Changlang, a remote district bordering Myanmar, is about 370 km from state capital Itanagar and 128 km from Assam’s Tinsukia. The push for turning Changlang into an agriculture-horticulture hub also aims to shift the district’s perception from being an insurgency-riddled region to a district with economic potential.
“It is this very reason that mooted the idea of setting up Food Processing and Allied Units,” Nanju Simai Tikhak, business development officer of NERCORMP, told EastMojo.
Emphasising the strategy, Tikhak said one adult male and female from every household in a village forms a Natural Resource Management Group (NaRM-G), a village-level institutional group. The NaRM-G ensures that natural resources found here are used to the fullest to achieve optimum results, and the finest final produces to be sold to the world under Atma-Nirbhar Arunachal Pradesh.
Roles and objectives of NaRM-G
NaRM-G is responsible for democratic planning and implementation for the overall socio-economic development of the village.
“These objectives have to be achieved by ensuring effective utilisation of natural resources available in a village in a sustainable manner,” Tikhak said, adding, “We have imparted the necessary training to the members of NaRM-G who take the decision and decide the beneficiaries through economic grading of household per village. The poorest household is accorded the top priority.”
The women of the NaRM-G can also form a Self Help Group (SHG) to promote women empowerment, she added.
Types of Food Processing and Allied Units
Changlang has become the first district in Arunachal Pradesh to roll out the first-of-its-kind Community-based Organisation (CBO)-led food processing & allied units.
The food processing units include spice processing and packing units, jams and pickles unit (food and fruit processing unit), chips processing units, areca nut processing, plate-making units, canned fruits unit, and mushroom unit, among others. Allied units consist of cane bamboo craft training unit, weaving and tailoring training cum production unit, sanitary and napkin unit, animal feed making unit, etc.
Tikhak said the spice unit will roll out turmeric powder, chilli powder, pepper powder, dry ginger and large cardamom. “There will be various flavour of jams like pineapple, guava, oranges and other fruits harvested in the district besides vegetarian and non-vegetarian pickles.”
Funding for FPU and allied units
The government of India, through the DoNER Ministry, financed the Rs 12 crore project, although, in some units, the communities too contributed 20-30 per cent of the costs.
“So far, 86 per cent of the funds has been released by NEC for the project,” Tikhak said. he added, “Such beautiful project, of the community, for the community, should be expanded to other districts of Arunachal Pradesh and state of North East.”